Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Evangelism, Liturgy, and Culture Wars

---by Doug Wilson

What is evangelism? Evangelism is the process, designed by God, in which the old humanity in Adam is supplanted by the new humanity in Christ. This does not conflict with our more familiar (and narrow) definition of evangelism, but it most certainly goes far beyond it. "For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith" (Rom. 4:13).

Evangelism of individuals as such is glorious and necessary, but at some point, the results of such evangelism will bring you to the point of critical mass, and you find that, like it or not, you have engaged the surrounding culture. This is God's design.

Again, at the center of every culture is a cultus, a form of worship. Suffice it to say that the Great Commission requires us to disciple, baptize, and teach obedience to all the ‘ethnoi,’ all the nations of men. This means that robust evangelism cannot be done without challenging the gods of the system.

While we must not despise the day of small beginnings, and must labor faithfully in the little things, we must not be distracted from the ultimate mission and goal, getting diverted into picking off the devil's stragglers, and going off with them to build an isolated evangelical ghetto.

Evangelism is combat between the gods, that is, between the living and triune God of the Bible and the idols of the age. Evangelism is therefore religious war at the highest level.

Evangelism is right at the heart of what are called the culture wars. But Christians have a problem here. Culture wars presuppose that we have a culture. You cannot have tank warfare without tanks. You cannot have naval warfare without ships. You cannot have a culture war without a culture. And by culture, I do not mean some sanitized G-rated version of whatever it is that the unbelievers are doing. The development of Christian culture must include (and not be limited to) Sabbath celebration, music, literature, poetry, architecture, scholarship, and with liturgy at the center driving it all.

But culture wars in this sense presuppose conflict. Such conflict is not a sign that something has gone terribly wrong. The two sides do not just have opposing weapons, but also have opposing views on the nature of the conflict and whose fault it is. Conflict is messy, not tidy. Confusion abounds. We can expect sin to manifest itself on our side. And we are to rejoice in the tumult (Luke 6:22-23).

This means that the courage required for evangelism is more than overcoming stage fright, or fear of strangers. Jesus is Lord of more than Genesis to Revelation. He is Lord of more than John 3:16, or of heaven alone. He is Lord over all, the Christ of all, the Savior of the world.

This is why our worship of Him is evangelistically potent. Evangelism is not primarily talking to men about God; it is about worshipping God for the sake of mankind.

This is why our liturgy needs to be deployed as though it were a battering ram -- because it is. We ought to pray in this way. We worship knowing this is the result:

"(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:4-5).

And as we beseige their gates, worshipping God in this way, we should not be surprised when they, from time to time, pour boiling oil on our heads.

Consider how the world is evangelized. Personal contact evangelism is not first; it is not the highest priority. Note that Paul does not say that God wants all men to be saved, and that therefore, in the first place, we are to leave evangelistic tracts in laundromats. When you locate the root deep in the soil, this may not look like you are tending to the fruit, but that is exactly what you are doing.

---1 Tim 2---
---The first thing is getting the gospel right: Christ died on the cross as a ransom payment for all men.
---The second thing (and the first thing we do) is getting worship right. Note that Paul says that, first of all, public prayer should be made for kings and all those in authority, so that we will have public order and peace, so that we might bring the gospel to them.
---The third thing here is the public proclamation of the gospel—Paul was ordained to this task as a teacher, preacher and apostle (v. 7).
---In the fourth place, not mentioned in this text, we may locate personal evangelism, according to a person’s gifts and opportunities.

Do not let anyone tell you that you are not evangelizing simply because you haven’t explained the plan of salvation to a non-Christian today. Other forms of evangelism are certainly lawful (bumper stickers, billboards, tracts, movies, books, and so on), but the ordained means & order of evangelism is the liturgical public prayer of the church for all men, coupled with prayer for the ordained preachers of the gospel.

We have allowed our traditions of evangelism to crowd out the Word of God on this point. The question, "Did you share your faith this week?" should be countered with "Did your church pray for the king last Sunday?"


Dennis said...

"This is why our worship of Him is evangelistically potent. Evangelism is not primarily talking to men about God; it is about worshipping God for the sake of mankind."

Very good post Sam!

srhoyle said...

Thanks Dennis. It's all about priorities.